A Checklist for Joint Replacement Surgery

SUNDAY Feb. 1, 2009 -- With increasing numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age, joint replacement surgery is becoming a reality for more Americans.

But improved movement and lack of pain in the replaced knee or hip isn't instantaneous, and knowing what to expect from the surgery and subsequent physical therapy can make recovery faster and better.

Before going under the knife, the American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging suggests you:

  • Ask yourself: Does joint pain make sleep difficult? Is the pain keeping you from doing what you like to do? Do everyday activities, such as standing up or climbing stairs, hurt? If you answer "yes" to any of those questions, give joint replacement further consideration.
  • Discuss it: If your health-care provider thinks you would benefit from joint replacement surgery, you'll receive a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Learn more: Find out how to prepare for the operation, what the surgery entails, the length of the recovery period and the extent of follow-up physical therapy.
  • Consider alternative surgery: If available, minimally invasive hip replacement surgery requires fewer and smaller incisions and usually shorter hospital stays and shorter recovery periods.
  • Talk about your medications: Before surgery, tell your health-care provider about all over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or herbs you take because they might complicate surgery.
  • Arrange for recovery: Otherwise-healthy seniors can expect to be discharged from the hospital four to five days after surgery. Plan ahead for help at home with meals, bathing and dressing for the first few days.
  • Put physical therapy first: Recommended physical therapy is a must if you want a fast and proper recovery.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about joint replacement surgery.

Posted: February 2009


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